Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to create an open ended clay project

I try very hard to leave all projects I introduce in classes, camps and workshops open-ended, so each child has the opportunity to explore the process and come up with their own unique solutions.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to see how an invitation to create a pot of strawberries ended with a wide variety of imaginative pots in the "Art and Nature" summer camp beyond my wildest dreams.

Campers arrived in the morning to find my terra-cotta strawberry pot in the middle of the table for inspiration.

my terra-cotta pot of strawberries and lazy bulldog basking in the sunshine

We discussed all their observations including that leaves were dark on the top and light on the underside, the different stages of growth of the fruit from flower to a succulent strawberry ripe for the picking and the way the vines shot out from the main plant.

I then gave each camper a small terra-cotta pot of their own and put out some oven baked white clay, florist wire, and scraps of watercolor paper and watercolors. I told each of them to use the materials however they wanted to create their own potted strawberry.

I envisioned vines made of wire with watercolor strawberry tops crowning strawberries made of clay when I was deciding what things to put out to entice the kids imaginations.

Silly me to think the kids' imaginations would be limited to my simple original idea.

Yes there were traditional pots of strawberries.

Before some of the kids began to venture off into purple dirt and flatten strawberries painted in wild colors.

Not one child utilized the watercolor paper and watercolors, not one. But the wire was a different story.

There was this rainbow creation where the wire bridges between the two stems.

And this amazing plant where the young artist first created a wire maze and then covered it in clay. He topped it off with creating plump purple fruits just begging to be picked and eaten. Any thoughts on what these juicy purple beauties would taste like if you could really eat them?

And then there was this abstracted strawberry plant that seems to be from another world. Is it not amazing?!

A couple of the younger artist played with the idea of a tall stem that either ended with some flowering leaves or a vine wrapped around it. Again lots of wild beast choices when it came to painted colors.

And finally this christmas tree strawberry plant. How simple and sweet is this?

I have always allowed the children in my studio to take the projects I present and make them their own, be it subject matter or how they decide to solve the challenge I have put before them but my best guess as to why this particular project took on such a life of it's own was the addition of the wire with absolutely no instructions whatsoever from me as to how to use it or any of the other materials.

This project is proof that when children are trusted to create something from materials with the end goal of pleasing no one but themselves, magic happens.

My wish to you is to give it a try and watch what magical things you will witness form right before you very eyes.

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